Chapter 1 - Meetings
The rat is in the trap.
A few seconds after reading the message, Yoongun’s long fingers tapped against the palm rest pad. Mulling over his thoughts, he deleted the email and closed out of the tab.
It was the response that he had been expecting. The trap he’d laid had been perfect.
Act 2. Rootkit (noun. a program that enables hackers to gain control of a computer system without being detected.)
A light wind blew, and with it came the changing of seasons. Yesterday’s wind had been hot and humid, but today, there was a cool sharpness to it. The diminishing afternoon light and the chilly breeze that blew at night were the slow but sure signs of change. The first hints of autumn had arrived but went unnoticed.
That summer had been particularly hot. Kyuyoung had felt as though she was up to her neck—nearly drowning— in the heat. Even standing briefly at the crosswalk had been too much to handle. She had suffered all through the summer, and now, as she stood at that same crosswalk, she felt nothing but relief as a cool breeze passed over her. The stifling, humid summer air had suddenly grown crisp and dry. Her skin tingled each time the wind brushed past her. As the chill traveled up her legs, Kyuyoung felt a shiver start at her ankles and spread throughout her body. Summer had clearly run its course, yet just the other day, autumn had felt like a faraway dream.
As soon as the crosswalk signal turned green, everyone hurriedly scampered to the other side of the street, as if in a race. It was a sight that would remain constant no matter how many seasons changed, how much the temperatures dropped, or how frigid the winter was. Kyuyoung, too, moved quickly, participating in this race.
With each step, she thought of her schedule for the day. At 10 AM, she had a score conference. She had prepared all the materials last night, so all that was left was to complete a final check before the meeting. After lunch, she had a meeting with the legal team at Hyunil Bio to review the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) for their upcoming negotiations. Nothing had been finalized, so she wasn’t terribly anxious about the meeting. Finally, at 5 o’clock, she would have to attend her weekly meeting with the team leader. That was the most difficult event of the day.
As she organized her thoughts and neared the entrance of the office building, a strong wind grazed her cheek. Her long hair fluttered and the collar of her buttoned trench coat was blown into disarray. Kyuyoung paused, running her fingers through to fix her hair and straightening her clothes. For some reason, she felt a sudden urge to look up at the sky. It was clear and blue, and the bright rays of sunlight felt warm on her face. It was a perfect autumn day.
Kyuyoung ordered two triple shot americanos from a nearby cafe, before heading up to her desk. She placed one of the drinks on the empty desk across from her, before texting her coworker a picture of it with a cute heart emoticon. It was barely 8 o’clock, and most of the desks at the office were still empty. Kyuyoung tried to clock in and out as early as possible, but more often than not, she ended up working an hour longer than required.
As she booted up her PC and waited for the system to load, she looked out the window. From the 44th floor, everything down below looked like a miniature model. The streets, which had been empty just a few moments earlier, were packed with buses and cars. Every time the crosswalk lights changed colors, people scurried across the streets in a mad dash.
Normally, it took nearly 10 minutes for the system to boot, but today, it only took around a minute. As Kyuyoung opened up the content management system, she looked towards the team leader’s office. It seemed that Team Leader Jung had already arrived, as there was a faint light seeping through the cracks of his blinds.
The office PCs used to be slow because of the security systems, which led to high volumes of complaints from the employees. The IT department would make excuses saying there was nothing they could do about it, and that they would just have to bear with it. They argued it was expensive to create a new system, not to mention development alone could take anywhere from 6 months to a year to finish. If everyone just put up with it, they would remain protected from hackers and not have to waste any money. Yet somehow in a matter of weeks, the team leader had managed to complete what the IT department had claimed would take months.
He was an MIT graduate and co-owned an IT firm that he created with an old classmate. He had even received a personal office, something that had never been given to a team leader before. The company had put in a lot of effort to recruit him, and there were quite a few envious of this fact.
“Good morning!” Sanghwa said as she walked in, taking a seat at the desk across from Kyuyoung. She picked up the americano with a grateful expression, as she gave it a swirl. Sanghwa tilted her chin towards the team leader’s office. “Did Team Leader Jung not go home last night?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Does that mean we have to work overtime again?” Kyuyoung shrugged at Sanghwa’s question and smiled bitterly. “What the hell! He’s been changing his mind constantly for the last few days,” Sanghwa said, lowering her tone as she spoke ill of her team leader.
“There’s nothing we can do, I suppose.”
“I’m just saying that it’s annoying because he never used to be this wishy-washy. Today’s your fiancé’s last birthday before the wedding, isn’t it? Won’t he be upset?”
Kyuyoung was getting married in June to a man named Jihyuk, whom she had met through her father. All she had done to prepare so far was reserve the wedding venue, and it still felt strange knowing that her wedding date was set. “I’m going to try to finish my work quickly and then go to him,” she replied.
When Kyuyoung had broken the news to her coworkers that she was getting married, Sanghwa had expressed surprise that she even had a boyfriend. She had half-joked that 27 was still young, and Kyuyoung shouldn’t be in such a rush to settle down. To be honest, Kyuyoung didn’t think she was in love. In fact, she knew she wasn’t. During her senior year of college, her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. After struggling to pay the hospital bills, Kyuyoung finally reached out to her estranged father, who had divorced her mother years ago. He had agreed to help under the condition that she went on a blind date. The man she would meet was Jihyuk Lee, the son of Jungcheol Lee, who owned ST Technologies.
Objectively speaking, these weren’t bad conditions at all. Jihyuk grew up in a wealthy family, attended a top university, and secured a job at one of the largest companies in Korea. His father was a multi-millionaire CEO, and Jihyuk would naturally follow in his footsteps. For two years, he and Kyuyoung met up for tea or dinner once a week or once a month, depending on their schedules. Their relationship wasn’t anything to write home about, but it wasn’t bad either. There was no love between them, but they could start a stable family together. However, as soon as the topic of “marriage” was brought up, she began receiving pressure to quit her job and study abroad.
“Why don’t you try asking the team leader again?” Sanghwa asked.
Kyuyoung shook her head. “He already said no.”
It was Jihyuk’s birthday that day. Kyuyoung had asked for the day off, but the team leader had asked her to stay late that day specifically. He denied her request, then granted it, before backtracking and denying it again. Team Leader Jung who normally hated going back on his word, kept swinging back and forth on his decision. He wasn’t the best communicator with the team, but he also wasn’t the type to play games with people like that.
“I guess he just doesn’t like me,” Kyuyoung smiled grimly, turning her attention back to her monitor.
Across the floor, Team Leader Jung’s office loomed like an ominous fortress.
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